Charlie Hunter Mule

Charlie Hunter Mule

Can I geek out a bit? If it wasn’t for Charlie Hunter and then Kelly Joe Phelps I wouldn’t be making steel resos and casters, 700 people wouldn’t be making music on them and you and I wouldn’t know each other. ⁣

I got a guitar in high school, played it a bit, tried to sell it and then played it a lot. Then I saw Charlie’s video playing Just a Closer Walk With Thee on the original Just like everyone else my mind was blown. But what I was most changed by was that someone had built something completely new, teamed up with a master and together they put something even better into the world. I wanted to be part of that, I wasn’t meant to be the player, I wanted to be the potentiator. I wanted to build the thing. Man + machine. Charlie’s music and shows continued to be that inspiration. ⁣

I went to the Roberto Venn guitar making school immediately after high school. I made a bunch of crazy guitars, the energy trying to make something that was inspirational to people. Ten years later I saw Kelly Joe Phelps play his resonator and I saw people yell questions about it in between songs. It was an old thing but he played it in a totally new way. I could show people that new sound. So here we are. ⁣

I got a bit anxious even typing this. Good things ahead.

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Johnny K.

Fell in love with the haunting sound of the reso at the Union Grove fiddlers convention about a thousand years ago when the pickers all slept in tents or the back of their pickups, and drank a bit too much, and jammed late into the night.  Between there and Galax this runaway teenager and his friend spent the next year dragging an old forth-hand Martin and a couple of backpacks full of uncertain dreams around the Blueridge trying to figure out why things were the way they were. 

After realizing that energy and pride were no match for being hungry, wet, cold and alone along a deserted road just outside of Boone, I traded the old Martin for enough cash to by a sandwich, two hot cups of sweet black coffee and a one-way Trailways ticket back home to Homestead FL because Greyhound was just too expensive. Apologized to my incredibly patient parents, and decided I could make things happen a bit easier with slightly more interest in school and slightly less in ensuring everyone I met that I knew a good deal more than I actually did. It was an exciting adventure and while most uncomfortable on many occasions, one I would not trade had the I the opportunity to do so then, or now.

That year born of a couple of starry NC and VA nights listening to the songs of the different pickers and voices of my land, it was the unmistakable siren's call of the American resonator that helped this wayward son find badly needed peace, and focus at the same time.  Now more than a half a century later, 100,000 blue-water miles under sail, 85 strange and interesting countries, one broken marriage, and more than a few regrets (though many more adventures), it is those cool clear nights in 1968 which still ring clear and sweet in an ever greying memory.

Bottom line? While everyone is unique, it's been this pilgrim's experience that we all have far more in common than we are different from one another. From the highlands of Papua to the non-stop energy of Manhattan and Dublin, from the Moi on Isla de Pasqual to the open markets of Kuala Lampur and Denpensar, to Urulu and Darwin Station, we share a common thread of a shared primal ability to recognize universal sadness and joy all through a few hundred musical notes paired with some simple stories in a way we all understand from our inside out.  Like laughter, tears and the unexpected provocation of thought, music enriches this short dance beyond measure and all the gold and silver cannot match the priceless gift shared by those who through their labor, make music possible. 

Luthiers like Matt who pay their dues, find their own path and struggle to follow their unique dream to create a near magical tool out the most basic of materials, which will ultimately allow so many of us to in turn create music are in my eyes anyway, examples of the best of us. We are indeed a deeply flawed species and while there are no heroes in this life, there is Music and that makes up for a good deal of our inherent weaknesses.  If we listen carefully it can remind us we can do better than we have.

As this life dance draws inevitably to a predictable though yet unknown end, my many love affair with hundreds of steel-stringed acoustic boxes has come full circle as I await with a young man's glee for the arrival of one of Matt's Mules in 2021. A roomful of wonderful guitars sit lonely now as I practice daily on a second-hand swamp dog in anticipation of her arrival sometime next spring.  Everyone with any sense needs goals. One of mine can now be found in a overstuffed binder full of old songs, new ideas and clumsy words patched together with a few simple chords in a quest to find their own voice in a Mule I have not yet met. Hey, a Man's gotta have a dream.

In the last several decades of walking upright I have come to understand that we often find the "new", in the journeys we take and the touchstones we find on our road to growing older if not fuller.  The longer and more challenging the voyage, the clearer the vision seems to become.   

I think it works for ears too.  

Thanks Matt, to you and yours for showing up every day and doing what you do.  It gives us all a chance to spread some light and perhaps make something new while we still have time.

Best Regards,

John and Finn

PS - please forgive my many spelling and syntax errors. It's late and my fingers are sore.